US Special Climate Envoy John Kerry will be in Beijing 16 – 19 July 2023. He will meet his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua, along with other senior Chinese officials.
This will be the first official meeting of the US-China climate change working group since China unilaterally suspended bilateral climate talks over Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last August.
Kerry will be the third senior US official to visit Beijing in the last few weeks after Secretary of State Blinken and Treasury Secretary Yellen, both of whom raised climate as an area of engagement between the US and China.
This is a key opportunity for the US and China to make progress on the joint declaration on enhancing climate action during COP26 in Glasgow. In addition, bilateral climate cooperation between the world’s two largest emitters has paved the way for advances in multilateral negotiations in the past, and this could prove to be the case again on some of the key issues at play at COP28 later this year.
For a successful revival of US-China climate diplomacy, we would have to see some clear signals on accelerated climate ambition and climate finance from both China and the US:
- China needs to reconfirm its commitment to “strictly control” coal power, after the country has seen a historic number of coal power plant approvals over the past months.
- Cooperation to control methane, a greenhouse gas is 80 times more potent in climate warming than CO2. Concrete next steps on methane reduction, including the launch of a methane action plan by China, would be crucial.
- On climate finance, Republican opposition in Congress has prevented the US from meeting President Biden’s pledge to increase US climate finance to $11.4 billion a year for mitigation and adaptation action in developing countries; given this, the US needs to follow through on mobilizing finance from multilateral institutions and the private sector. China could play a bigger role in financing the global green transition through voluntary commitments in climate finance, having announced a $3.1 billion pledge to support developing countries on climate in 2015, following President Obama’s $3 billion pledge to the Green Climate Fund.
Commenting on the significance of these talks, Alden Meyer, Senior Associate at E3G said:
It has been the case in the past that bilateral cooperation on climate between the US and China has improved the atmosphere in multilateral negotiations. That could prove to be the case again on some of the key issues in play at COP28 later this year, such as accelerating deployment of renewable energy technologies, though there will remain sharp differences between the United States and China on other fronts, such as the debate over expanding the base of donor countries on post-2025 climate finance.
Commenting on the measure of success of these talks, Byford Tsang, Senior Policy Advisor at E3G said:
The success of these talks would be judged by whether there are progress on the issues the US and China agreed upon before the climate talks were suspended. That would include, signals from China that it’s stepping up on its climate target, in particular assurances that it is reining in its coal power sector; and the launch of an action plan to control methane emissions.
Commenting on potential breakthroughs at these talks, Belinda Schäpe, Policy Advisor at E3G said:
It remains to be seen how much progress Secretary Kerry and Minister Xie Zhenhua will be able to achieve together. China is unlikely to announce new policies as a direct result of these talks as China would not want to be seen as caving into American Pressure, President Xi has made clear that China does not act upon request of others but on its own initiative.
Available for background and commentary
Byford Tsang (EN, CN), Senior Policy Advisor (China), Climate Diplomacy, E3G. +44 7931 317 327, email@example.com.
Belinda Schäpe (EN, DE), Policy Advisor (China), Climate Diplomacy, E3G. +44 (0)7864 802176, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alden Meyer, Senior Associate (multilateral climate and clean energy diplomacy, mitigation ambition, US policy & politics), E3G
Notes to Editors
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